Wednesday, December 31, 2008

National Capital District

Where I spend the majority of my time, the NCD is PNG’s smallest province and the most accessible. The edge of its surrounds can be seen on the Magi Hwy at the roundabout by Central City, just past the Laloki Bridge on the Hiritano, the Abattoir out on the road to Sogeri and the moment you step off the Napa Napa Rd and head towards Boera and Lea Lea. Home to the Capital of PNG (hence its name) the NCD is the melting pot of all of PNG’s provinces and people. The suburbs and settlements here are made up of the same clans that assemble in the Highlands and Coastal areas of this country, and as a result, sometimes age old differences from back home are regurgitated on the streets of the Nation’s Capital.

Basically the NCD is Port Moresby and its fringed settlements. Change is happening in the time I have been here, new buildings and accommodation apartments are always being erected, the new sub-division at 8-mile is coming along, especially noticeable from the air and generally there is a sense of a new dawn, and a new level of economy. The PNG middle class is becoming noticeable, yet you will still find a grass roots approach to family and wantoks on many street corners.

A highlight for me in NCD and this will be repeated as I discuss the other 19 provinces is surely the people, I have made many friends here and their smiling faces and gorgeous warmth will be the core of my memories of life in Moresby. No one single highlight stands out, I review my time here as a mix of emotions and energies. Perhaps walking over the top of Burn’s Peak on a Sunday morning and meeting a young Papuan who was sitting atop of a rock reading the Good Book may be one of the more surreal moments. He was up there for some solitude on his Holy day of the week.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Foreign Correspondent. A book review.

Not really a book review but a collection of my thoughts regarding a recent edition of the ABC's Foreign Correspondent television program. A segment of the program recently highlighted problems with Air Travel here in PNG and while I do not doubt that there are some issues with the Management of flying up here, I was not entirely convinced with the sensationalistic style of journalism displayed on the people's network of Australia at a night time slot. Perhaps it should have been best suited for a 6:30pm slot on a commercial network?

My primary concern is that the journalist (Steve Marshall) informed us that in a recent crash investigation, the investigating team were denied access to the crash site by local landowners seeking PGK10,000 in compensation. Whilst this was obvious, it was odd that Steve and his camera crew were given access to film the site and interview the landowners in question. The majority of helicopter charters in PNG start at around PGK4,000 per hour and Steve and the team had flown in and out of the crash site, and I am sure the landowners would of had a small surcharge for the permission to film the crash site. If they didn't then there is some hypocrisy in demanding compensation for the crash investigation team? I wonder if the crash investigation team were given access to the ABC's footage in full of the crash site? Let's hope the money spent bringing this news to our attention was used in a positive vein and the crash investigators received some valuable information?

The segment also interviewed the family of a pilot who lost his life in the crash that the camera crew visited and currently the family are being told that it was pilot error and therefore the case is closed. My impression in this compensation dependent society is that the family would prefer to have someone else be responsible for the crash so that compensation could be sought. While this is not a criticism of the segment, it is more a reflection as to why I named this blog what it is called.

Perhaps this is why man-made machines flown by man fall out the sky? On Christmas Eve of 2007, I needed to fly across to a village in the neighbouring Oro Province and high up in the often cloud covered Owen Stanley Ranges. I spoke to a friend of mine early in the morning and he said please do not go with such and such (named charter company) as he had witnessed their chopper pilot drinking heavily at the Yachtie at 1:00 am that morning and buying take aways for the drive home. I took that advice on board and went to another hangar where the pilot took me out to the workshop to show me the condition of the helicopter. It was unrecognisable, it was a pile of nuts, springs, panels and assorted mechanical looking bits. I asked what happened and he said that there was a concern on the last flight so they undid a nut and the chopper fell in bits. It must have been the nut on the mechanic's shoulders that was loose.

I then headed to the next hangar, home to the pilot who I was warned about with his overnight celebration and I found the pilot still celebrating Christmas with the boss of the company, in the middle of the carpark. To their credit, they did offer me a green can but I refrained, it was only 9:00 am.

I decided to postpone my trip. A few weeks later, the first hangar I went to, their helicopter stalled whilst landing at a nearby location a few seconds prior to landing, causing the helicopter to crash into a big messy pile. Both pilot and passenger survived, the chopper was brought back to Moresby in the back of a Ute.

Steve Marshall finished his story in a Nostradamus like fashion by suggesting that while currently it is only light aircraft falling out of the sky, it won't be long before the bigger planes have a Yogyakarta style incident. Inferring that if landowners continue to demand compensation of crash team investigators and the families of dead pilots seek someone to blame, then this will mean bad weather and poor pilot judgement will result in a Air Niugini flight crashing. I am going out on a limb and I will say that if F100s start dropping off the end of runways then the disease will spread to other carriers that use the same tarmac that Air Niugini do, it won't be long before QANTAS, Malaysian Airlines and Singapore Airlines start going buggerup.

Happy flying!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Tourism, PNG style.

How tourism should work… A tourist goes to a spot, may it be scenic or otherwise, they pay their entry fee, this fee goes to the upkeep of said spot. The tourist thinks that the spot is amazing and decides to take a few photographs and on their return home, they show said photos of said spot to their family and friends. Family and friends are inspired and plan their next holiday, perhaps including a visit to the spot.

Everyone is happy, Spot worker has a job, Spot is maintained and more and more people decide to visit, increasing employment in local community and just generally making everyone happy.

How tourism has worked for me in PNG… sometimes on the weekend, I am a tourist in my new found backyard. I would like something to do, so I ask around, and I discover that there is a good spot for a Sunday visit. I arrange to get there, I have a good time, I pay my entry fee and I pay some bloke who shows me around, and he takes me to the better parts of the spot. I’m impressed, I take a few photos and I show them to my friends, who ask me to take them to the spot.

We all arrange to get there, we all pay our entry fee, we all have a good time, and we all convince our friends that it is well worth the effort to get there. And they do.

Then one day we all show up, and as we are leaving, the guy who we pay entry fee to stops us and says that he hears that we have been taking photos of the scenery some two months prior. We say “Of Course! It’s a beautiful spot and we want our friends to be inspired and visit!” And he says, sorry but my boss says you must pay K250.00 because you used a camera. Unbelievable! This extortion is shooting tourism in its own foot.

Over the last two years I have probably introduced this spot to around 50 people, who have all paid their entry fee, and quite possibly have visited on more than one occasion, and quite possibly have used the services of the local crew to help find the better parts of the spot and have all had a good time. Perhaps over K1000.00 has entered the spot’s coffers through my direct and indirect involvement, yet someone wants more, someone is greedy and someone is stupid.

For shame Tourism PNG, this is a bitter day.